Tale From My Mind is one of those ongoing projects for me. As long as I keep seeing things, I keep getting ideas that pile up, get ramped up to 11 and after weeks of planning lightning strikes and … BOOM! 

This is one of those moments. Obon Matsuri is an event that always inspires me. The act of placing a lantern on the water, with the mix of the warmth of the lantern opposing the cold dark evening blue really strikes a chord each and every time. 

So, finding a model, a kimono and lanterns all worked out in the time. However, I bought 30 lanterns, we needed over a 100 more to create the right amount of impact in the picture. So together with Sam Ponette we created these ourselves from wood and fiber-paper. On the day itself, every lantern had to be put together, with a large tea-light candle being hot-glued to the lantern for safety. 

Doing scoutings in the Japanese Garden in advance, it also was obvious we would be needing more light than I currently own, so in addition to my own Profoto B2 Location kit, a B1 Location kit containing two monolights was also added to the gear list. And why create so many details like the lanterns if you can’t reproduce it properly afterwards, so it became a great reason to test the next item on my wish list: the Hasselblad X1D. 

So up close we have our talent, holding a custom made floating lantern by Sam Ponette. To add a tad more light to her face, we have a Profoto B1 with a gridded and half cut CTO Gelled OCF 2’ Octa up close. Wait, what do those things mean? The Profoto B1 is a monolight. On there is a Color Temperature Orange (CTO) color filter with 50% color intensity. The grid on the octa means light won’t be going where it shouldn’t go. 

Above her is a Lastolite Joe McNally Skylite, which softens the light above her, coming from another B1, this one gelled with a CTB (blue filter) and a small 20 degree grid, focussing the light to the panel. The Profoto B2 kit is inside the house. One light is illuminating the rice paper, while the other is shining outside, bringing some extra information to the background. 

Because we want the feeling of moonlight, I wanted some light coming in very high, adding a bit of light rays shining through the fog. Those got supplied by three SB-700 speedlights, triggered in SU-4 mode by two other speedlights forming a path of light. The fog obviously came from artificial sources, with the close-up fog coming from a hazer. The interesting thing about the hazer is that it delivers a constant stream of very subtle fog, while the two big fog machines gave out huge bursts of real thick smoke, something that was needed to fill out the background. 

Having smoke and backlight was something I didn’t account for. Two weeks before shooting I tested the exact settings of light in my backyard. However, with the backlight shining through the silk, it also illuminated the smoke, so we had to be very careful about the amount fog and smoke we used. 

For the day itself, everything had was planned very detailed, with enough buffers meaning that if we’d get a delay, there still should be enough time to make up for them, and still get the shot made on time where the light balances would smooth out and create the right exposure. A good thing too, since we got blessed by Belgian weather, meaning we had unforeseen torrents of rain. This meant we had to wait until just before the shoot to actually get all the lanterns on the water. A job we accounted over an hour for, now had to happen in twenty minutes. Meaning every person on location that wasn’t essential for the shot itself was shanghaied into service to light lanterns and place them on the water, with fire-crew Sam and Anja putting them into the correct position.

So, the shooting itself. I managed to control all the Profoto lights on the Hasselblad X1D through my AirTTL-N remote. I also had the Hasselblad Phocus software loaded onto my iPad Pro, with the X1D connected over WiFi. The transfer speed of that is nothing short but amazing. It would transfer the huge files over faster than I could physically move my head to the screen. An amazing way of working, though one eating battery faster than a starving dog would eat a fallen bit of food on the ground. The touchscreen controls also are pretty amazing, making it very easy to set-up and work, even for those not used to use the camera. Using the camera the next day in the Efteling, I managed to shoot the better part of a day, with WiFi switched off, on a single charge, so that’s not bad at all. 

Extra props go out to Marceline, our female talent, who has been enthusiastic and motivated throughout the entire project, without a single complaint of having to sit on her knees in the cold water for half an hour. 

A whole many things had to come together for this shoot to work, from an amazing crew in good spirits, a whopping 20 crates of gear, to battleing the elements. At least, the weather gods did shine on us, because the thirty minutes we actually spent shooting, the weather cleared, with the rain beginning again during the clean-up. 

So working together to combine this Tale From My Mind with a campaign image for the Japanse Garden is a match made in heaven. 

Full credits

  • Photographer: Kris Van de Sande
  • Producer: An De Cleyn
  • Make-up Artist: Ine Bongaerts
  • Talent: Marceline Eydens
  • Light Crew: Manon Heuts, Ymke Dirikx, Frederik Zutterman
  • Fire & Water Crew: Sam Ponette, Anja Hermans, Robin Senica, Marlies Keijzer, Ingrid Deckers
  • Additional Help: Peter Claeskens, Véronique Daenen, Sara Davidson
  • Behind The Scenes Video: Timo Vandiest, Thiago Struys, Frederik Zutterman, An De Cleyn, Kris Van de Sande